In recent days, some multinationals have come under scrutiny following revelations that some operating in New Zealand have not paid nearly $500 million in tax. MyThinks thought it was unfair that the multinationals didn’t have a chance to give their side of the story so we went out and asked them to comment.
BRIAN GOOGLE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, GOOGLE:
There has been a few things mentioned to me over the past couple of months. Mostly related to tax. Where do you pay tax? How do you pay tax? Where is all the money? How is it that I, as an individual, am taxed on my GROSS income, yet you, as a company, can claim all sorts of nonsense back off the taxman and pay about three bucks in tax?
My friends, there is a very simple answer.
None of our earnings are actual money. For years myself and Mrs. Google have not really done very well. We are, as they say, in a bit of a pickle.
Last year we only earned $US 75 billion. That’s hardly anything. Money isn’t what it used to be. Back in the old days, before computers, people could go down to the shop with, say, £6, and buy a house. Now a house costs heaps more than that. Last time I looked you had to pay well over $10,000. That’s like a whole different kind of money.
Dollars are more expensive than pounds. So $US 75 billion really is only about £8. So we at Google are thinking that you’d be lucky to get anything for that kind of money so we sloshed it around and it kind of disappeared. Until our CFO picked up a 747 full of cash from the Cayman Islands.
COLIN SUPERNERD, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, FACEBOOK:
People look at me and think, man what a dork. That nerd really is a dork. But when they find out I have billions and billions of dollars they all want to sleep with me. I’m not going to put that at risk by paying a few million in tax in a tiny little country that people think is part of Australia.
DR. DAVID RICHBASTARD, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, ASTRA XENICA:
We make our money out of shafting sick people. So… meh.
SIMON FARQUEUE, PRESIDENT, EXXONMOBIL:
We don’t comment on tax matters.
TIM COOK, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, APPLE:
Look, man. We’re so cool. We have all the cool stuff. Have you seen the latest iPhone. It’s like a totally different iPhone to the last iPhone, even though it looks, feels and is, exactly the same. It’s really cool. I’m cool. Have you seen me on the stage when I do something with a new Apple product. Man, I look cool. You’re just not very cool so… we won’t be paying tax.
Many of the other companies didn’t return our calls or laughed down the phone at us while playing this song:
With the recent release of the OECD report into inequality, My Thinks thought it imperative we delve further into this and get some clarification on neoliberal economics. Emeritus Professor Archibald Ineruditus, head of the Ayn Rand College at the University of George W Bush in Texas, has studied classic neoliberalism since it’s inception following a meeting between William Randolph Hurst and Satan, the Prince of Darkness, at the birth of Rupert Murdoch in the 1930s. Professor Ineruditus joined our interviewer by internet phone from his palatial home in the leafy suburbs of Austin.
My Thinks: Thanks for joining us professor.
Professor: My pleasure.
My Thinks: Let’s get straight into it. Do you feel, in the wake of the release of the OECD report into inequality, that classic neoliberalism is on the way out?
Professor: Great first question Mr Thinks. Like all neoliberal theorists, I’m actually going to answer a different question by saying the weather in Austin is fine, thanks for asking.
My Thinks: If I could ask you again, do you think that neoliberalism has had its day and western democracies are going to start bringing in other, more egalitarian forms of economic management.
Professor: Oh no. We have to remember that all western governments, be they Republican or Democrat, Tory or Labour, or whatever you have in New Zealand, are all totally funded by monies obtained from very rich people. Normal people and poor people don’t have the kind of money they can splash about on paying for political party membership. It’s a well-known fact.
My Thinks: You’ve been studying classic neoliberalism for years now. What would you say is its strongest feature?
Professor: Well… over my many years of study I would say definitely the strongest point of neoliberalism is its comprehensiveness. Everybody benefits. From those running the multinationals right through to the people who own the multinationals.
My Thinks: Is there anyone who doesn’t benefit.
Professor: Because of the trickle down effect, everybody benefits. The extra growth created from those higher income earners reinvesting their tax cuts into housing and their superannuation funds or other tax-free investment opportunities really does mean that the whole economy does really, really well.
My Thinks: How?
Professor: It’s hard to quantify in terms of actual money, but certainly there is a vibe that trickles down. I’ve been many, many poor people standing outside in the rain looking with excitement at my house and where I live (Thanks to the many grants I get from various think-tanks and business lobby groups I have certainly benefited from the trickle down effect in a monetary way). Anyway, when this vibe is pretty all-encompassing.
My Thinks: If you were to sum up neoliberalism as a list of key elements, what would they be?
Professor: Oh, excellent. You read the list of questions I emailed. The first tenant of neoliberalism is user-pays. All government services are user pays for every single citizen. If you use it, you pay. The only legitimate exception to this would be those people who are able to structure their finances in such a way as to appear poor despite owning several million dollars worth of stuff.
My Thinks: What else?
Professor: Just quickly. Small hands-off government. If we have too much red-tape and bureaucracy that will stifle growth. Private business will be given absolute freedom to develop and run themselves as they see fit. Public services, such as health, education and social services, will be micro-managed with the paper fist of bureaucracy. If we paid tax, that would be our tax dollars being wasted.
My Thinks: So trickle down, user pays and small government. Is there anything else that you would say defines neoliberalism.
Professor: Yes. It’s important to ignore any scientific or empirical evidence that proves your entire life’s work is a complete joke. If I was to accept any research into, say, the economic impacts of climate change or inequality, then I would have to reject all the hard work I have done for my wealthy benefactors since the 1980s. I would be utterly discredited and I would probably have to sell all my Harley Davidsons.
My Thinks: Really?
Professor: Yes. I own a fleet of Harley Davidsons. That’s why neoliberalism is so important to the economy, growth and the future of the world.
My Thinks: So you absolutely reject the OECD’s findings that inequality is actually hurting growth in economies who’ve adopted neoliberalism.
Professor: Totally. Anyway, everybody knows the OECD is full of hippies and anything they say is a joke.
My Thinks: Except when you’re using data that supports your theories?
My Thinks: Once again, thanks for speaking with us this morning professor.
Professor: Thank you Mr Thinks.
I was ruminating yesterday while I was planning for the upcoming term. Earlier in the year I suggested to the class they might want to learn about World War 1 – the Great War – and they agreed, so I’ve been planning a number of different projects based on this nation-defining epoch.
Yesterday, as commemorations of the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings took place, and as we near the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, I began thinking…
If those young men were alive today, what would they think about the current state of the nation they had fought so hard to protect?
What would they think about the increasing gap between rich and poor that sees the top 10% of income earners in New Zealand earn so very much more than the bottom 50%?
What would they think of New Zealanders supporting this very same government to the tune of (up to) 50% – depending on which political poll from the mainstream media you look at?
Our soldiers fought for freedom. They fought for four years in appalling conditions to protect those freedoms. Freedom of movement. Freedom of association. Freedom of belief. Freedom from tyranny.
Are you free if you have to work two jobs to pay rent and electricity so you can live in Auckland (where most of the jobs are)?
Are you free if you are injured, can no longer work, yet are forced by bureaucrats to go out and look for work to satisfy a work test?
Are you free if you have every part of your life monitored so the government are satisfied you meet the criteria to receive an unemployment benefit.
Are you free if you have nothing in a world where owning everything is considered success?
But then, this government doesn’t want you to be free. They don’t want you thinking freely and questioning their authori-tigh.
No. This government would rather you struggle along focused on making things better for your family because if you stopped to think for just a nanosecond about how little the Western political elite actually care about you and your family you would rise up and take back your life.
But then capitalism was never about freedom anyway.
Benefits cut for 21,000 overseas travellers: Paula Bennett press release, April 3rd, 2014
Henare apologises for comments about cleaner: NZ Herald, Sept 27, 2013
Why are teachers used as targets?: Allan Alach (The Daily Blog), December 18, 2013
WORKING FOR THE FEW – Political capture and economic inequality: Oxfam NZ, Jan 20th, 2014
The other day the twitterverse was awash with talk of Russell Brand. Since he is of the celebrity ilk, this is no surprise. Katy Perry and all that.
Then someone put up a link to this:
Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman (I was trying to think of a televisual New Zealander I could liken him to. Alas, there is none.) questions Brand about his guest editing of the New Statesman magazine and never having voted.
Paxman was more or less saying that Brand couldn’t complain about the system if he wasn’t willing to vote. Another way he said it was, “Why should we listen to you if you can’t even be bothered going out there to vote.”
Brand was countering Paxman with the argument that the system of Westminster democracy is so broken serving just a few massive corporates and such a tiny fraction of the population that a vote within that system is actually a vote for the system.
As much as Paxman tried to steer the interview, Brand wouldn’t allow it. He is not voting because of his absolute indifference towards
When Paxman asked what Brand was doing when he was 18, he replied he was a drug addict because he came from the kind of conditions that he says are exacerbated by the current political system. He says people don’t want to engage because they are not represented by the current political elite.
The apathy doesn’t come from us the people, it comes from people running the system. Where there is profit, Brand says, there is deficit. This deficit has led to a massive underclass of people who don’t see any hope coming from or receive anything to improve their lives from those in power. That’s why they, and he, don’t vote. Why would you? The system gives you nothing so why vote for it.
Here is Russell Brand’s 4500 word manifesto which appeared in the edition of the New Statesman he edited.
He calls for a revolution.
New Zealand just had a series of local body elections with turnouts so poor that more people watched the current series of The Block than bothered to post in their vote.
According to our own Electoral Commission, 29% of people are just not interested in politics. I would imagine politics not being relevant to their daily existence being the root cause of that.
Politics has never been interested in them.
It’s not that we are apathetic, it’s just that the choices we have on offer are so unbelievably poor or so far apart from what we believe a good and functioning society should be that we are not wanting to take part.
If you give us something to vote for, we will vote. If you keep everything for yourselves, then you might as well keep the system for yourself as well. I’ll just get on with making sure my kids are fine thanks.
PS: Since the current capitalist paradigm is built on oil and money, I’ve often wondered what would happen if we all just decided that money wasn’t important any more and we just stopped spending it. Does that make me a communist?
Russell Brand’s 4500 word manifesto – New Statesman, 24 October, 2013
Newsnight Interview with Russell Brand – BBC Newsnight, October 2013
Hello and welcome…
It would be remiss of me not to do what everyone else in the world is doing over the course of this week so here goes…
A lot of people must be looking back at 2009 and thinking, like I am, where the hell did that go. This year seems to have flown by much quicker than usual. Or is it the fact that I’m getting old? Does time pass quicker the older you get? If I think back to my childhood the years seemed to go on forever, weeks and months melding into each other like one long hot summer. Anyway, that’s enough of the Stand by Me crap. On with what I was going to say.
It’s good to see that the capitalists of this world still think the sun shines out of their arses despite the complete and abject failure of their way of doing things.
Oooo, ooo, Mr. Obama… Mr. Obama… I’ve got a good idea!! Me, me! Look I know that in the last couple of years that things haven’t been going quite right. In fact, technically speaking, when you crunch the numbers, they’ve been going quite wrong by quite a lot – mainly because I’ve been trying to make ridiculous amounts of money by effectively gambling on things I didn’t really understand but pretended I did.. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that if you give me MORE money, and when I say give I mean lend, if you lend me more money I can do some more guessing and gambling and I can make it all better. And once it’s all better, then I can pay you back. Good ay?
6 months later….
Oh, yeah, hi Mr. Obama… look I know that we made some number of billions profit this year despite having to ask you for some readies to tide us over but we really can’t afford to pay you back just yet. But I am good for it, I really am. It’s just that we need that money to do a bit more guessing and gambling. See, we’ve made $60 billion in the last six months, but if you let us keep going with the loan, if we can keep doing what we are doing – and remember we are the experts in the field, we know what we are doing – if we can keep going then that $60 billion could turn into $63 billion or maybe even $65 billion. That would be like an extra $5 billion that you didn’t have before man. Where did it come from? Well… um… I don’t really know. I just checked the balance at the end of the day and it had gone up a bit. No, it’s not like actual money you can hold in your hand, like a $2 note or anything. No no, this is an on-line bank balance. Well, yes, I suppose it could go back down just like it’s been going up, but I doubt that very much. After all, we play the markets like this all the time so we have experience and know how that allow us to be extremely confident in ourselves and what we are doing. No, I don’t have any qualifications other than a diploma I got from a technical college in Halifax. No, that diploma isn’t in finance – it’s in something called book labelling… it’s like book-keeping but instead of accounting for the ebb and flow of cash through the books, I’m am qualified for making sure all the books are correctly named. How did I get into the finance industry? I knew a guy in college who told me I was quite good on computers and adding up and he suggested I become a day trader. The rest is history.
Of course, that’s not to say that ALL of those people still involved in the financial institution that nearly bought the world to its knees (but thanks to some quick cash from those people who actually pay taxes, they can continue on their merry way) have no idea what they are doing. Indeed, I’m sure that most people who take huge daily risks with money that doesn’t belong to them in situations they can barely understand, know completely what they are doing.
I am being incredibly sarcastic here. I doubt whether anyone on Wall Street really fully understands anything about the institution they’ve created. All they really care about is making money – and lots of it. And before you go all funny and start suggesting I’m a communist, or, God forbid, ‘against us’, think of it this way… where does the money come from? If I’ve clicked my mouse to complete a trade, then later that day I sell making money, the only thing changing is a number on a computer screen. Where is the cold, hard cash – the tangible thing that I can hold in my hand that shows I’ve actually done something useful.
If I go out to a market and buy a carrot for 9 cents and later that day sell it for 10 cents, I’ve made a penny. I also have a 10 cent piece in my hand that I can show people and say – look at me, I’m worth 10 cents. Yesterday I was worth only 9.
The thing that really sticks in my mind from this year is the amount of profit these US companies made in the months following their bailout by Obama. For example, AIG made $1.82 billion in the second quarter of 09. This after getting nearly $200 billion in loans. I suppose, technically speaking, these loans have to be paid back by AIG, but all they’re doing is shuffling things around and selling them off to do this. They’re not really changing the root cause of all the financial market malarkey that has occurred in the last couple of years (oh, and in the late 90s, and in the late 80s, and in the 1970s, and so on and so on and so on).
People are driven by wanting to make as much money as they possibly can with little regard to whose money it is that’s actually helping them do this. When human nature is involved, you can’t have a totally unregulated situation in the marketplace, no matter how many times they tell you to let the market provide. Look what it provided last year (oh, and in the late 90s, and in the late 80s, and in the 1970s, and so on and so on and so on) – complete meltdown because those in charge of the money-go-round all got off at the same time. Dicks.
Oh well… I’m sure they’ll do better next time (I’m picking it to be around 2018).
Happy new year!!